HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Senate today unanimously passed legislation to implement numerous alterations to the commonwealth’s probation system. While the original version of the bill, Senate Bill 14, was hailed by advocates as significant and much-needed reform of probation, numerous advocacy groups dropped their support after the Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill in June.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania was among the advocates who supported the bill as introduced but later dropped their support and actively opposed it after it was amended. The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“The Legislature can no longer get away with gaslighting Pennsylvanians about their attempts at reform. The reality is that this bill makes probation worse. It will keep poor people on probation indefinitely because they are unable to pay their restitution. It will make it easier to incarcerate people for technical violations of probation. And, the bill creates a far more convoluted and restrictive process for terminating probation than current law provides.
“Thousands of people are putting their lives on the line every day by marching in the streets to demand that elected officials seriously address racial inequality, and the criminal legal system is replete with racial disparities. Members of the General Assembly — Republicans and Democrats — are on notice that we will not allow them to spin us into believing that they’ve done something positive here.”
The following can be attributed to Elizabeth Randol, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“The fundamental rot that underlies the probation system in Pennsylvania is the length of time we allow people to languish on probation. The core reform that SB 14 proposed — capping probation sentences — was intended to stem the tide of mass supervision, which all too often results in disproportionately incarcerating Black, brown, and poor Pennsylvanians. But instead of fixing the underlying problem, the state Senate took a desperately needed reform bill and mangled it so that the people of our state are left with mere scraps.
“The Senate sacrificed all of the fundamental, structural changes to Pennsylvania’s probation system in order to tout a bipartisan, but unmistakably Pyrrhic, victory. If this bill becomes law, probation will continue to be the destructive system that it is today.”